During Mental Health awareness week we hear of the myriad of ways we can improve mental health. There are a host of natural interventions that help mental health; these include herbal medicine, lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, exercise, homoeopathy, dietary changes and nutrition.
There is a great deal of research that shows the importance of diet and nutrition in mental health. Anxiety is a common mental health problem; and while it may be quite acceptable to be anxious at certain times, prolonged anxiety can be a serious problem. Of all the minerals, I have found that Magnesium is the most effective in helping with anxiety. Research shows that magnesium, copper, zinc, calcium, may be deficient in people who suffer from anxiety states . Of these, magnesium is most likely to be low [1-5]. Studies show that increasing magnesium intake decreases anxiety symptoms [1, 6-8]. Research that looked into the way magnesium relieves anxiety found it acts on the nervous system in a similar way to pharmaceutical drugs (benzodiazepines) that are used to decrease anxiety .
Magnesium may also be low when there is muscle tension [5, 10, 11]. Often people who are anxious have muscular pain. If so it is likely that you will need magnesium both for the mental tension and muscular tension [12, 13].
The foods that are highest in magnesium include, all green leafy vegetables, nuts, especially almonds, and seafood. If I do use a supplement, I recommend the Entire Katoa Food State range for the best absorption. You also need to check your diet for foods that can interfere with magnesium levels. Stop alcohol, this will deplete a number of important nutrients including magnesium . Cut out very sweet foods as sugars deplete magnesium levels [15, 16] and if your blood sugar levels are higher than normal you are likely to be deficient in magnesium [17, 18]. In addition fluctuations in your blood sugar levels can make you feel more anxious [19-21]. A diet high in grains may also affect magnesium absorption [22, 23], so decrease or cut out grains. If you are cutting out grains I recommend you seek advice to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
There are many other nutrients such as the B vitamins and herbs that play a big role in naturopathic treatment of anxiety; it may be these are just what you need to gain back your mental health.
1. Starobrat-Hermelin B, Kozielec T: The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive response to magnesium oral loading test. Magnesium research: official organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium 1997, 10(2):149.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368236
2. Grimaldi BL: The central role of magnesium deficiency in Tourette's syndrome: causal relationships between magnesium deficiency, altered biochemical pathways and symptoms relating to Tourette's syndrome and several reported comorbid conditions. Med Hypotheses 2002, 58(1):47-60. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11863398
3. Jung KI, Ock SM, Chung JH, Song CH: Associations of serum Ca and Mg levels with mental health in adult women without psychiatric disorders. Biol Trace Elem Res 2010, 133(2):153-161.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543697
4. Grases G, Perez-Castello JA, Sanchis P, Casero A, Perello J, Isern B, Rigo E, Grases F: Anxiety and stress among science students. Study of calcium and magnesium alterations. Magnes Res 2006, 19(2):102-106. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16955721
6. Spasov AA, Iezhitsa IN, Kharitonova MV, Kravchenko MS: [Depression-like and anxiety-related behaviour of rats fed with magnesium-deficient diet]. Zh Vyssh Nerv Deiat Im I P Pavlova 2008, 58(4):476-485. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18825946
7. Hanus M, Lafon J, Mathieu M: Double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a fixed combination containing two plant extracts (Crataegus oxyacantha and Eschscholtzia californica) and magnesium in mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders. Curr Med Res Opin 2004, 20(1):63-71. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14741074
8. Fromm L, Heath DL, Vink R, Nimmo AJ: Magnesium attenuates post-traumatic depression/anxiety following diffuse traumatic brain injury in rats. J Am Coll Nutr 2004, 23(5):529S-533S.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15466958
12. Seelig MS: Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions; preventive and therapeutic implications (a review). J Am Coll Nutr 1994, 13(5):429-446.http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/abstract/13/5/429
13. Altura BM, Altura BT: Tension headaches and muscle tension: is there a role for magnesium? Medical hypotheses 2001, 57(6):705-713.http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0306987701914392?showall=true
15. Tajmir-Riahi HA: Magnesium-sugar interaction. Synthesis, spectroscopic and structural characterization of Mg-sugar complexes containing beta-D-fructose. Biophys Chem 1986, 23(3-4):223-228.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17007791
17. Nielsen FH, Milne DB, Klevay LM, Gallagher S, Johnson L: Dietary Magnesium Deficiency Induces Heart Rhythm Changes, Impairs Glucose Tolerance, and Decreases Serum Cholesterol in Post Menopausal Women. J Am Coll Nutr 2007, 26(2):121-132.http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/abstract/26/2/121
19. Armario A, Marti O, Molina T, de Pablo J, Valdes M: Acute stress markers in humans: response of plasma glucose, cortisol and prolactin to two examinations differing in the anxiety they provoke. Psychoneuroendocrinology 1996, 21(1):17-24.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8778900
20. Allison BG, Ryan JA, Kenneth EF, Ray EC, Patrick JL: Prevalence of anxiety in adults with diabetes: A systematic review. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2002, 53(6):1053-1060.http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0022399902004178?showall=true
23. Bohn T, Davidsson L, Walczyk T, Hurrell RF: Phytic acid added to white-wheat bread inhibits fractional apparent magnesium absorption in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 2004, 79(3):418-423.http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/79/3/418